In recent years, there has been an increased clamoring inside Major League Baseball wondering whether agents have run amok with power. The Major League Baseball Players Association and its leader, Tony Clark, have apparently commissioned a report to find out.
The MLBPA has retained attorney Robert Muse in an effort to examine how licensed agents handled the Biogenesis scandal, starting what could eventually lead to wholesale changes in what it takes to represent players. Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan first reported the story, noting Muse has particularly focused his efforts on agencies ACES and Relativity Baseball, along with Creative Arts Agency agent Nez Balelo.
Clark, who took over as MLBPA executive director last year, told Passan that the investigation is primarily focused on weeding out agents who do not have their clients' best interest in mind:
When it comes to protecting players, our concerns as a players association are always the same. Any group, any individual, anyone that comes alongside or works with a player, we are only interested in protecting the players' interests and rights accordingly. That manifests itself in a lot of different ways. In this particular instance, the great thing is that in any number of conversations I've had with our agent community, 99.9 percent of them are committed to the same thing, and that's the best representation of the players. We are looking into any ways that we can continue to provide the best support and best representation we can for guys.
Passan notes that the union hired Muse several months ago and that his investigation has been ongoing throughout the year. A formal report is expected within a few weeks, at which point the players association will review it and render a ruling. There is no guarantee the punishments will be made public, and the MLBPA largely considers the investigation an internal matter.
Muse, a high-profile attorney whose resume includes work with the Senate on Watergate, has been tasked largely with looking for improprieties in the Biogenesis scandal. The Miami-based clinic funded by Tony Bosch was at the center of one of the biggest performance-enhancing drug scandals in baseball history.
Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta were among the players who have served suspensions in the case. Alex Rodriguez is serving his season-long ban for the 2014 campaign following a drawn-out appeals process.
That investigation saw MLB place massive pressure on players and Bosch himself, who worked with the commissioner's office to help himself out of litigation. The players association has retained Muse to help suss out any agents who may have breached their agreements by working with MLB on the investigation.
T.J. Quinn of ESPN.com reported that if agents are found of any wrongdoing, their certifications may come under scrutiny. The MLBPA has the right to decertify any agent who has knowingly violated existing rules.
Balelo is the only agent named in both Quinn's and Passan's report. Balelo is the agent for Braun, the 2011 NL MVP who served a 65-game suspension last season—second longest doled out by MLB next to Rodriguez. ACES, which has come under the spotlight for past improprieties, is again being investigated because an abnormally high number of its players were named in the case.
Although the genesis of the investigation is understanding agent involvement in this particular case, the scope may become larger if wrongdoing is found. Passan's report highlights Clark's desire to rid the sport of behind-closed-door dealings with agents.
In recent years, it's become more popular than ever for agents to poach clients via illegal payments. As the agent pool continues to grow, such practices will also become a greater norm. It's the goal of Clark to help suss out those bad eggs, though there has been some pushback from players who would prefer the status quo.
For now, it's time to welcome Biogenesis back into our lives. The scandal that initially rocked baseball and then just wouldn't go away is back again, this time rearing its head in a far different context. Should Muse be able to uncover issues, the long-term effect of this Biogenesis case may be far greater than a few 50-game suspensions.
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